Referencing websites

Although the academic community was one of the first to make extensive use of the Internet and is relying increasingly on online sources in building academic knowledge, this doesn't mean that you can be any less rigorous when citing online, web-based resources. There is generally less consistency when you are citing from websites but you must remember that you still need to reference them in your writing in the normal way. That is, you need to reference the web resources you have used in the main body of the text and in the references section of your assignment. It is very important that you reference resources from the Internet in comparable ways to any other resources because downloading and copying material from the Internet without attributing the source is always regarded as plagiarism, something we discuss in more detail below. Although there are still no universal procedures for referencing web pages, there are some general conventions you need to follow in order to inform anybody reading your work where your ideas came from. You need to provide:

• the date the page was last updated;

• the date the website was retrieved.


Harasim, L. (2001) Shift happens: online education as a new paradigm in learning, The Internet and Higher Education, 3(1), retrieved 31 July 2002. pdf.

Law, J. (1992) Notes on the theory of actor network, Science Studies Centre, University of Lancaster, retrieved 6 August 2002. http://

Do remember that you always need to include the date the web page was accessed in your reference; this way the reader can see when you found this information. Unlike published work, web addresses change, links are broken and material is removed from websites. As long as you give the URL reference as you retrieved it on a particular date, this will give the reader the opportunity to see if she can find the resource you are quoting. She can go to the homepage of the institution or organization and search for the author. She may be able to find your original reference, or it may have disappeared due to a server problem or a broken link but be visible again once the problem is rectified. It is always a good idea to check web pages again just before you finish your assignment, so that you can include the most recent access date. If you are concerned about the authority of an online resource, then you should discuss it with your tutor. You might also like to look at the section on evaluating Internet resources in Chapter 12 for more general advice. Over time you will probably find that you become better at spotting those sources which can be relied upon for their academic credibility.

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